The statistics related to senior falls are astonishing. Falls are the leading cause for injury in seniors, and lead to hundreds of thousands of hip fractures every year, together with numerous other injuries experienced. As common as falls in the elderly are, the risk is more than doubled for anyone with osteoarthritis, as reported by the CDC.
Why Does Osteoarthritis Raise Fall Risk So Significantly?
There are a number of contributing factors:
- Pain. The joint pain caused by arthritis leads to as much as an 85% greater chance of falling, based on the number of painful joints an older adult has and which joints are afflicted. The pain will naturally cause seniors to avoid using the joints causing pain, leading to unsteadiness and muscle weakness.
- Pain medications. While pain itself is enough to put seniors at a higher likelihood of falling, the very medications meant to help may cause harm as well. Prescription pain meds, primarily narcotics, cause drowsiness and dizziness – both key factors behind falls.
- Functioning difficulties. Joint rigidity and the mobility challenges that it may cause can change how an older adult walks and moves. Each step taken normally places 80% of our body weight onto one limb; but older adults with arthritis pain will discover ways to compensate for the discomfort, which could place them off balance.
How to Avoid Falls
Taking steps to prevent falls is vital for seniors with osteoarthritis. There are two important elements to fall prevention:
- Increase physical activity. Studies show that building muscle strength and improving flexibility and balance will lower the possibility that a senior with arthritis will experience a fall. Talk to a senior’s doctor first, and then encourage the older adult to try these low-impact exercises:
- Tai chi
- Weight training
- Assess the home environment. A walk-through of the home can help identify any potential dangers and make any needed modifications to improve safety. For instance, remove clutter/cords/obstacles blocking walking paths, add grab bars in the bathroom, make sure that sturdy handrails are in place alongside stairs, and add additional lighting.
Let Compassionate Nursing Services, a provider of elder care in St. Louis, Missouri and nearby areas, help further decrease fall risk for a senior you love. We are readily available to perform a thorough assessment of the home and also to provide additional recommendations to enhance safety. We can also assist with:
- Medication reminders
- Transportation to medical appointments, exercise classes, and anywhere else an older adult would wish to go
- Housekeeping and meal preparation
- Safe transfers and walking
- Picking up prescriptions and groceries and running other errands requested
- Companionship to motivate seniors to stay active while remaining safe
- And so much more